This past week Microsoft and Google have released beta versions of their latest browsers. Many people (like me) are wondering why we need more browsers, and what some of the new features are that would make it worth changing. Changing browsers is not a trivial, particularly for universities, because web sites that were designed to work with the current browsers sometimes won't work with new browsers. This is not necessarily the fault of browsers, rather it is generally the fault of the web page designers not following published standards. Here are some of pros and cons of two of the latest offerings:
Google Chrome Beta
Google has launched its own web browser to better drive its users to its other online offerings such as blogger, Google apps, etc. Like all things Google, it has one or two things its does really well, but lacks the full set of functionality of Internet Explorer and Firefox. According to Steven Svensson of CNN, its major drawback is poor performance, particularly when a user has multiple web pages open. In his CNN review of Chrome, Steven states that "It lets sites running Flash take over your computer's resources. It doesn't hog the CPU quite as bad as with Firefox, but in a way, it's more serious, because unlike with Firefox, there's no way to stop Flash from running. Chrome's controls are quite bare-bones, perhaps because it's still in "beta.". On the plus side it provides tabbed browsing, a very nice look and feel, and one box browsing and searching. Here are some of the features:
- Application Shortcuts: launch web apps (such as Google Apps) without having to launch the browser first
- Incognito mode: sometimes referred to as "porn" mode, lets you browse without leaving a history
- Crash Mode: if one tab crashes won't take down the rest
- One box for everything: Search, history and address bar all in one place
Internet Explorer 8 Beta
Internet Explorer 8 will without a doubt be the unrivaled browser leader in full functionality. Its biggest drawback: it was designed strictly to industry standards, and web sites that use deprecated HTML, or are designed with poor security will not render as designed or with reduced functionality. To address this problem, IE 8 has a "compatibility mode" that will allow the user to revert the browser's functionality to emulate IE 7 if a web site isn't based on current standards (with appropriate warnings of course). Some of the other new features include:
- Effective management of computer CPU & memory: multiple Flash pages only use a small percentage of CPU time
- InPrivate Browsing: users can select a setting that prevents the browser from leaving a trail of web sites visited. While one of the more controversial features (sometimes referred to as the "porn" setting, it can be disabled by administrators and parents
- Web Slices: You can add just a portion of a web page (like sports scores) to your favorites and keep updated by clicking on the slice
- Accelerators: Little mini apps that can use data directly from a web page. For example, if a web page has an address but has not provided a link to MapQuest or Google Maps, you can click on the map accelerator and it will automatically show you the map and give you directions
- Smart Search: Type in a search term and you will get suggested search terms for a variety of search engines including Amazon, Wikipedia, Yahoo & more.
- SmartScreen Filter: SmartScreen filter protects against the inadvertent installation of malicious software, and warns users if they attempt to access a phishing web site.